I have been doing some version of this project since 2016 and am still coming across actual Bowie videos— videos made by Bowie for his songs— that are new to me. Such is the case for this one for “Survive.” My originally commentary on the song uses a video of him performing the song live, but this is a studio-created video, complete with special effects of Bowie entering a state of zero gravity. I’m not sure what, if anything that has to do with the song, but my reaction upon finding this involved a greater degree of surprise than it seems Bowie was experiencing when he and his table began floating…
I like this song and I think it suffers, at least in my own head, by association with the album it’s on, ’hours…’. ’hours…’ (that’s how the album name appears on the cover, with the apostrophes, lower case and ellipses) is Bowie’s weakest post 80s album, but it has some good songs and this is one of them.
I’m not going to repeat what I wrote earlier, however as I think of the song it occurs to me that its whole feel is very different than other songs that emphasize the word, “survive,” or are about survival. I’m thinking specifically of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Elton John’s, “I’m Still Standing.” In both cases, the songs are about resilience. Bowie’s “Survive” is not that. The tone of Bowie’s song suggests that the narrator will only just survive rather than thrive. Though the song is called “Survive,” Bowie repeatedly sings the word preceded by, “ill.” He sings, “I’ll survive.” I think there’s meaning in the contraction, possibly deliberately contrasting Gaynor’s assertive, “I will survive.” He’s giving a reassurance that as bad as things are, as many regrets as he has, he’s not going to die over it.
Anyway, the video is worth watching. Hopefully there are more out there left to be discovered.